April 20, 2018
Thai Deputy Prime Minister Prawit admitted on Wednesday (April 19) that terrorist group Islamic State in Iraq and Syria could attempt to set up a branch in Thailand, The Nation reported.
His comments come after a statement released by police chief Mohamad Fuzi Harun that four ISIS militants – one of which is Thai- were being pursued for suspected plans to attack non-Muslim places of worship and kidnap and murder police officers. Two have been caught, but the other two are still on the run, The Nation reported.
Intelligence sources believe that the Thai suspect, Awae Wae-Eya, is the group’s mastermind, and is attempting to set up an ISIS cell in Thailand, The Straits Times reported.
Southeast Asia has faced a significant threat from Islamist militants in recent years. In light of recent events, here is a closer look at how the war on terror is progressing across the region.
Aside from the four militants, police have arrested six other members of the ISIS cell between Feb 27 and March 1, Malaysia’s police chief Mohamad Fuzi Harun said in a statement, according to The Straits Times.
The arrests included two janitors from Singapore, a 37-year-old technician, two security guards aged 49 and 30 and a 25-year-old waiter.
The raids also led to the arrest of a member of Philippines-based terrorist group Abu Sayyaf, believed to be a trusted lieutenant of group’s leader, on March 15, The Straits Times reported.
The 31-year-old man is thought to have connections to Malaysian militant Mahmud Ahmad, and is wanted in the Philippines for involvement in a kidnap-for-ransom syndicate.
Malaysia has arrested nearly 400 people since 2013 for suspected links to terrorism, according to The Straits Times.
The Philippines endured a particularly tough year in its fight against terror in 2017 when militants managed to capture significant portions of the southern city of Marawi.
The resulting five-month clash caused the deaths of almost 1,100 people and was the country’s biggest battle since World War II, Reuters reported.
Though Philippine forces declared a victory over the pro-ISIS Maute rebel group in October, militants have continued to make their presence felt this year, with a violent clash on January 20 that wounded six soldiers, according to Reuters.
The southern island of Mindanao, which President Duterte has labelled a “flashpoint for trouble” will remain under martial law for the rest of the year, Reuters reported.
Four people were wounded in February when a sword-wielding man attacked a church in Yogyakarta during a Sunday service, The Straits Times reported.
The attack lasted 15 minutes before the assailant, identified as Suliono, a university student from Bayuwangi in East Java, was shot and subdued.
It later emerged that the 23-year-old Indonesian was a radical Islamist whose plan to fight alongside ISIS in Syria was thwarted when his passport application was rejected, AFP reported.